Portsmouth’s playground taken over for anti-aircraft guns

TRAINING 214 Battery Heavy AA Royal Artillery on Southsea Common shortly before the Second World War
TRAINING 214 Battery Heavy AA Royal Artillery on Southsea Common shortly before the Second World War

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It had long been a dream of the people of Portsmouth that Southsea Common should one day be theirs.

It became reality in 1922 when the corporation bought the now-treasured tract of land from the War Department.

UNITED Former members of the 57th Wessex HAA Regiment who manned anti-aircraft guns on the common during the Second World War, at a reunion in 2012

UNITED Former members of the 57th Wessex HAA Regiment who manned anti-aircraft guns on the common during the Second World War, at a reunion in 2012

It had always been used by the military, usually as a marshalling area for armies before boarding ship, notably before the battle of Crecy in 1346 – an English victory during the Edwardian phase of the Hundred Years’ War.

Yet just 17 years after it finally fell into the hands of Portsmouth people, it was commandeered by the military yet again as the Second World War threatened.

Before the war the Luftwaffe had identified Portsmouth as an important target.

German bombers followed radio beams that intersected over Southsea Common, but the common’s open acres were also seen as vital in the defence of the city.

PLAY SUSPENDED 101 Battery Home Guard, outside their Naafi, the bowls pavilion, on Southsea Common during the Second World War

PLAY SUSPENDED 101 Battery Home Guard, outside their Naafi, the bowls pavilion, on Southsea Common during the Second World War

A rocket battery on Southsea Common during the Second World War.

A rocket battery on Southsea Common during the Second World War.